It's convention season! Which, for me, kicks off on 4th of July weekend with the yearly Anime Expo, humbly located in the sprawling Los Angeles Convention Center. I've been an AX regular since about 2005, and though times have changed, certain things, uh, haven't. I've got a good hunch about what I'll be able to find in the dealer's room if I look hard enough. Here are ten of the strange, cool and completely expected things I knew I could find in the crowded exhibit hall. As usual, the show did not disappoint.
10) Stuff That Is in no Way Related To Anime or its Fans in any Way, Shape or Form
Look, I get it - it's a bunch of nerds, gathering in one place, and you've got some nerd shit you're trying to sell to people. San Diego Comic-Con is a few weeks away, and you'd like to not have as much stuff to lug around Southern California. Just because I get it doesn't mean I always understand it. Which is why I knew I could find some weird booth that is ENTIRELY devoted to a completely different fandom - like Harry Potter!
One of my favorite things about these cons is seeing which things outside of anime merchandise actually sell - because the nerdy teens that congregate to these things often have no shame about wearing them or proudly displaying them right after they buy them. Like this guy, who bought this inflatable, winged donkey. He had it with him all weekend.
I didn't find a single soul wandering around Los Angeles with any Harry Potter regalia. Meanwhile: anybody selling Homestuck stuff, anything with Zelda on it or Minecraft-related things probably made a fortune.
But at least all that stuff is pretty harmless. It is still, at its core, nerd-related merchandise. Anime fans obviously branch out into the larger realms of nerdery, be it gaming or card games or comic books and so forth. But what I DO NOT get are the booths in the dealer's rooms that are selling the sort of mass-market crap you can find anywhere. I was sure I could find one of those somewhere, and by God, I did.
Seriously? Despicable Me 2 just made over a hundred million dollars this weekend. There is no "fandom" around Despicable Me. And if there is, I pity them.
Thankfully, I did not see a single kid in cosplay getup with a giant stuffed Minion. Nah - the kids here are a bit more refined in their tastes.
9) Hand-Written Signs
No matter the booth, no matter the company in charge, sometimes you need some appropriate signage. And sometimes, all you've got is some cardboard, maybe a piece of paper, and a marker. And it always, always amuses me. Especially when it unintentionally conveys something misleading.
Just in case the confusing wording next to the adorable, smiling visage of a cardboard cutout of a gothic lolita girl wasn't enough, they were kind enough to draw a smiley face to really tie everything together. The mot juste.
And sometimes, the signs are there for safety reasons.
And then there are signs that are just dicks because they keep us (meaning: me) from having fun and enjoying life. Take this giant Gundam at the Bluefin booth.
There are so many wonderful, possibly illegal things I want to do to this Gundam, I can't - oh.
Thanks a lot, jerks. I guess I'll have to drown my sorrows and anger in the usual way; buying assloads of yaoi.
8) Cosplayers at Rest
The actual show floor is kind of a bad place to go in your full cosplay regalia. It's too crowded, people get pissed at you for blocking traffic to take photos (i.e. me), and more importantly, it gets hot. This is LA, baby, and temperatures were around 100 degrees outside. So, I knew I could find one of my favorite things to see - hot, tired cosplayers!
Course, there's also the guys who are just as intrigued by the loud noises and shiny objects in the dealer's room as anybody, and didn't have the time to get changed out of their intricate costume.
Even better are the full-body costumes, which I imagine put tremendous physical and emotional strain on the poor men and women inside. It's very easy for THIS -
To turn into THIS.
So the next time you see a guy in a full-body costume, just remember - they're people on the inside, just like you and me.
7) An Animation Cel From a Sex Scene
If you're a cel collector, cons like Anime Expo are both great and terrible places to pick up some anime cels. Great, because there are booths with giant massive binders filled with cels, and you don't have to deal with shipping or anything wacky like that. Terrible, because you're often overpaying by a large margin compared to what you'd pay for a cel if you were, say, in Japan. This cel from Big O, for instance:
They want 85 bucks for this. In Japan, Big O was a flop, so you could've picked this up from a cel collector for half that, easy. Regardless, I was on a mission to find cels of naked people. I'm usually able to find at least one. And this year was no exception. Although I had to dig around for a long time in their "Miscellaneous" bin to find one. I stopped at some cels from Project A-ko, and I was about to give up.
Until, lo and behold, I found a scene from Yoshiaki Kawajiri's delightfully dark and lurid Wicked City, featuring a demon sucking on a boob! Don't worry - the dealers were smart and put tape over the NSFW bits. Also, the lighting sucks because it's a dark cel and there was a giant light over everything, and I couldn't move them around for a better shot.
Cel collecting is one of those things where I salivate when I have both the expendable income and extra space to accommodate stuff like, y'know, a cel of a boob-sucking demon from Wicked City. But there's also another thing I salivate over:
6) ALL OF THE TOYS
Any convention would be a terrible place for me to be if I had money, but especially anime cons, because they have ROBOTS.
Luckily for everyone involved, I actually have no money! So I can't spend an entire fortune on Gundam model kits I have neither the space or dexterity to make.
My favorite part of the toy booths, though, is the odd sight of characters from completely different series next to each other in fun, dynamic poses. Like Kitty Pryde here, jauntily hanging out with this super-deformed moe girl:
And my personal favorite, Solidus from Metal Gear Solid 2 next to a Chocobo:
I was also sure I could find some top-quality "Engrish" amongst all these toys, and of course I did not come away disappointed.
Before I move on to the next page, I'll leave you with this 350 dollar figure of Onegai Teacher's Mizuho: